Big Timber Canyon Road - East Side Crazy Mountains
photo by Kathryn QannaYahu

The Crazy Mountains in Montana have been a public access hotbed, beginning in 1940. As then Forest Service Supervisor G. E. Martin writes detailing the variety of uses documented in the historic Crazy Mountains, including mining, timber, grazing, trappers, hunters and recreation, "At no time was travel over the roads and trails restricted until October 1940 when Van Cleve locked the gate during the hunting season. In 1941 this was done again. In 1942 the gate was again locked before the opening of the hunting season and was still locked on April 24, 1943."

I requested a FOIA from the Custer Gallatin National Forest for documents relating to the public access situations in the East Side of the Crazy Mountains in the fall of 2016, as well as a current one for the transfer situation of Alex Sienkiewicz, the former Yellowstone Ranger District involving documents from the Montana Farm Bureau, Montana Outfitters and Guides (which land owner Chuck Rein is the Vice President of), a number of local landowners, including the Sweet Grass County Attorney Pat Dringman's wife, Page Carroccia Dringman to Senator Steve Daines.

Due to increasing access obstructions and conflicts in the Crazy Mountains,
late summer 2018, FOCM & EMWH hired an attorney, joined by others, to form a coalition.

Check out our Crazy Mountain Legal page for lawsuit updates


The east-side Crazy Mountains obstruction involves 2 trails and a road. From the northeast end, you first have to get thru an arched gateway. The road used to be called Sweet Grass Road, per older maps and county records. Later outfitting landowner Chuck Rein, changed the sign to a private road sign - Rein Lane. He installed a private road sign saying landowner permission was required for commercial or recreational use. I have Railroad Grant Deeds for this road showing, "easement in the public for any public road heretofor laid out or established, and now existing over and across any part of the premises."

After you get thru the obstructing arch, you then encounter the first gate, which has been locked during hunting seasons to keep public hunters out. The landowners on the road have shared keys. Some landowners further down the road have written formal statements to the Forest Service saying the road has always been public, even provifing receipts of public monies used for maintenance.

When you get to the Forest Service trailhead for Sweet Grass Trail #122, you encounter another public access obstruction. The Forest Service visitor sign in box was removed, not by the Forest Service, and a false landowner sign has been placed there, stating you have to have landowner permission and sign in for "permissive" access. This is a landowner effort to achieve evidence of obstruction for "reverse adverse use" documentation for the courts, to prove they successfully blocked public access to privatize it. The ranch previously belonged to Van Cleve, the original outfitting obstructor mentioned above. It passed to his daughter Shelly, who married a Carroccia; which then passed to her son and daughter Page, who married Dringman.

From Sweet Grass Creek Trail #122, the northern end of the East Trunk Trail #115/136 begins, going south, connecting to the Big Timber Canyon Road, where a Ranger Station used to be. Van Cleve also owned property down there, cutting off public access, which began litigation in 1948. After trying to delay the court for many years with his ranch work, Van Cleve finally signed an official Forest Service easement in 1954, ending the public access obstruction on that end. Some of the land was sold to Langhus, who then began his own obstruction of Trail #115/136, posting signs.

Enhancing Montana's Wildlife & Habitat


Have you been in the Crazy Mountains?

If you have been in the Crazy Mountains...

  • perhaps you received a citation when you were on a FS Trail on their map;
  • perhaps you have been on one of these contested trail and you thankfully did not ask landowner permission or sign in and would like to add your account to the prescriptive easement history;
  • perhaps you would just like to share your story and/or some pictures of what these particular public lands and access mean to you?

If so, please contact Kathryn :



Crazy Mountains Public Access Page

Please contact the officials below

Secretary of Agriculture, Sonny Perdue, U.S. Department of Agriculture, 1400 Independence Ave., S.W., Washington, DC 20250 (202) 720-2791

Forest Service Chief, Vicki Christiansen, vcchristiansen@fs.fed.us (202) 205-8439

Region 1, Regional Forester Leanne Marten, lmarten@fs.fed.us (406) 329-3315

Custer Gallatin National Forest Supervisor Mary Erickson, mcerickson@fs.fed.us (406) 587-6949

Sen. Jon Tester, senator@tester.senate.gov (202) 224-2644

Senator Steve Daines, steve@daines.senate.gov (202) 224-2651































































































































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